Ostomy Products FAQs

You may be new to the ostomy world, or you may be a novice and know all the tips and secrets to make life with an ostomy manageable and all the ways to keep your stoma skin healthy. However, there are always new and improved ostomy products coming out on the market, so you may have some questions you didn't have before. We will try to address some basics and some issues we have recently heard from our customers.

What is an Ostomy?

An ostomy is when a surgeon reroutes a portion of the large intestine (colostomy), small intestine (ileostomy), or urinary system (urostomy) to an opening made on the abdomen (stoma). These procedures change the way that fecal matter and urine exit the body. Instead of the usual path taken to release waste from the body, the matter is diverted and expelled through the constructed opening on the abdomen. 

An ostomy is needed for various life-saving reasons. The large or small colon may be diseased, and part or all of it may need to be removed, requiring a colostomy or ileostomy. If a person's bladder is diseased or defective, a section of the small or large intestine can be removed and relocated to form a new passageway for urine to pass from the kidneys to the stoma.

What is a Stoma?

When the surgeon performs an ostomy procedure, an opening must be created on the abdomen for bodily waste to exit. This opening is called the stoma. Ostomy appliances such as a skin barrier, flange, and ostomy pouch are then used to collect the stool or urine. Stomas can be flush with the skin (flat), protrude outward (convex), or they can cave into the skin (concave or retracted). Healthy stomas should be slightly wet to the touch and red or pinkish.

What is an Ostomy Pouching System?

An ostomy pouching system consists of a skin barrier/wafer with a flange and an ostomy pouch or collection/drain bag. For those with a colostomy or ileostomy, these can come as an all-in-one system or separate pieces to form the system. The one-piece system consists of a skin barrier/wafer and a pouch that are all joined together as one single system. Each time you change your ostomy system, the entire unit is discarded and replaced by another one-piece pouching system. You might opt to use a two-piece ostomy pouching system. These allow the skin barrier/wafer to stay in place as the ostomy pouch is either drained or replaced. The skin barrier of a two-piece ostomy system will have an attached flange. This mechanism allows the ostomy pouch to either snap or clip to it for security. One- and two-piece ostomy pouches can also be drainable for extended wear or closed-end pouches that are replaced at every change.

Those with a urostomy, one- or two-piece systems are also used but will feature a special adapter that connects to either a urinary leg bag or drainage bag of choice. At night, a drain tube can be connected to this adapter to attach to a drainage bottle or bag near the bed.

How Often Should an Ostomy Pouching System be Changed?

Keeping an eye on your output is an integral part of how frequently your ostomy pouch should be changed or emptied. Those with an ileostomy typically have more liquid production, resulting in changing or emptying their ostomy pouch more often. Fluid output will also increase the likelihood of leakage since the consistency is less formed. You will also want to take a look at the skin around the barrier. If it is weepy or moist, the seal will breakdown more quickly, resulting in leaks. If you are wearing a one-piece ostomy pouching system, these are usually changed once a day. For a two-piece ostomy system, you may need to determine wear-time based on observation of pouch fullness, leaks, and skin irritations. 

Can I Swim with an Ostomy?

No matter what kind of ostomy you have, the answer is yes! Of course, certain precautions should be made so there are no unexpected accidents. Your ostomy pouching system is made to be water-resistant, so leaking should not occur as long as there is a proper seal. Emptying your pouch first and checking to ensure the skin barrier has a secure seal are two crucial preparation steps. Using barrier strips like ConvaTec's easeStrips can also help add security if you plan on swimming for an extended period. Using a filter cover sticker will also prevent water from getting inside the pouch, which will cause ballooning. 

Will I be Able to Travel with an Ostomy?

With a little extra preparation to pack the right supplies, traveling with an ostomy will be no problem! You never know how many times you will need to change your ostomy pouching system, so it is wise to pack more than you usually would. It would be a good idea to make yourself a checklist so that you don't forget everything that you might need. Some must-haves are skin barriers/wafers, adhesive remover wipes, gauze pads, scissors (if you use cut-to-fit), gelling products and pouch deodorant. Packing healthy snacks that won't irritate your digestive tract is also a good idea, and choosing an aisle seat when traveling by plane can provide easier access to the restroom.

Will I Be Able to Be Intimate With an Ostomy?

In short, yes! However, before engaging in sexual activity, always discuss with your surgeon whether you are properly healing for this type of activity. Once cleared by your doctor, make sure that you completely empty your ostomy pouch. Now is not the time for an accidental blowout! You can also take a supplement such as Imodium to slow down the output if you know you will be engaging in an intimate moment. There are smaller ostomy bags, ostomy capsostomy support belts, and all kinds of ostomy pouch covers to keep the contents hidden. These ostomy products can make intimacy a little more comfortable and keep your ostomy pouch out of the way.

What Are Convex Pouching Systems?

If you are experiencing leakage around your stoma, it could be that your stoma is flush or retracted, and the skin barrier is not getting the proper seal it needs for a secure fit. Convex ostomy pouching systems were created to address this problem. The way these products are made, they apply pressure around the peristomal skin so the stoma can easily protrude slightly outward so that the ostomy pouch can then attach firmly and securely to the skin barrier. This will help prevent leakage from occurring and provide a clean and healthy peristomal skin area.

What is Moldable Technology?

ConvaTec's Moldable Technology requires no cutting of the skin barrier as it creates an elastic seal that fits any stoma shape and size for a snug and secure fit. The result is fewer leaks because of no gaps, and this leads to healthier peristomal skin. This technology works by forming a "turtleneck" around the stoma that enhances the seal for a snug fit. As the skin barrier swells with fluid output around the stoma, a tight and secure fit is achieved. You can shop ConvaTec Moldable Technology today to experience the difference.